Wine’s Time
Sarah Theodore  
If you’ve been keeping an eye on the wine industry lately, you might have noticed that winemakers have turned up the heat on brand development and marketing efforts. That hasn’t always been the case. For a long time, wines were sold based only on where their grapes were grown and what kind of grapes they contained — and it was pretty much up to the consumer to know what they were looking for.
But for several years now, winemakers have been making their products more accessible, with strong results and equally strong incentives to continue. Wine sales in the United States rose in all price segments during the past year, and U.S. consumption is expected to increase to 2.7 billion liters by 2008, enough that it will make it the world’s largest consumer of wine, ahead of both Italy and France.
With products such as Yellow Tail as inspiration, several companies have endeavored to make their wines more like branded products. Beringer Blass Wine Estates, for example, recently announced a new wine “created by women for women.” Named White Lie, the early-harvest, low-calorie wine initially will be available in 12 U.S. markets. Also with a nod toward women, Brown-Forman has introduced Five Rivers “Goddess” wines, with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon each representing a goddess of the essential elements of Earth, Air, Water and Fire.
Wine to many people still is all about subtle details such as appellation, vintage and aging techniques. It would be a shame to lose those details and have wine turn into just another branded beverage. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a way to make wine accessible while still maintaining those nuances? For consumers who are interested in that information but might be intimidated to learn or simply not have time to keep up on wine news, a company called Super Marketing Promotions Inc. has developed an in-store kiosk they can use to educate themselves. The system incorporates tasting notes, food pairings and varietal information that consumers can find by scanning the barcode of the wine they are interested in purchasing. The system uses a customized wine database and has an LCD touch-screen display that allows consumers to navigate their own wine selections.
Winemakers in the United States have an opportunity before them unlike any other time, with consumers who are receptive to their products and sales momentum on their side. The challenge will be to bring new consumers into the fold without giving in to the temptation to “dumb down” wine so it loses the qualities and sophistication that make it unique.
On a totally different note… I’d also like to take this opportunity to introduce you to Elizabeth Fuhrman, Beverage Industry’s new managing editor. Elizabeth joins the magazine from one of our sister publications, Candy Industry, and I think you will find her knowledgeable about consumer products and enthusiastic about the beverage industry specifically. I know she will add a great deal to the magazine, and if you’d like to drop her a note, you can reach her at BI
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